President Obama began his presidency by repudiating the Bush Administration's torture policies. On the heels of this decisive step, there is an opportunity for the US to lead again. American can demonstrate to the world that the US not only condemns policies that sanction torture and cruelty, but also strongly affirms the importance of supporting programs geared towards healing survivors of torture.
Last week Major General Antonio Taguba (US Army, Ret.) joined PHR and a bipartisan group of civil society groups and national security experts, including Judge William Sessions, the former Director of the FBI, in calling for a national commission to investigate the torture of detainees by US personnel.
PHR has joined a group of preeminent experts and NGOs calling for a non-partisan commission to investigate the detention, treatment and transfer of detainees following the attacks of September 11th, 2001. As PHR's repeated calls for a commission have reiterated, only a thorough inquiry can ensure that the clear, legal prohibition against torture is upheld.
Physicians for Human Rights joined human rights and religious organizations in an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief, submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court on January 28, 2009 in the Al-Marri v. Spagone case. Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a Qatari national, has been detained as an "enemy combatant" in the United States in prolonged isolation for five years, reportedly "driven nearly insane by months of punishing isolation and sensory deprivation."
Yesterday, President Obama lifted the spirits of all who oppose torture and hope for a return to the rule of law in the United States. In a series of three executive orders, President Obama made major reversals on Bush Administration interrogation and detention policies. President Barack Obama began overhauling U.S. treatment of terror suspects Thursday, signing orders to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, shut down secret overseas CIA prisons, review military war crimes trials and ban the harshest interrogation methods.